Title: NBA 2K18
Platform: PC, PS4, and Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Sports
Release date: Out Now
tl;dr:: Another year, another NBA 2K game
Price: $60 / £60
Family Focus: Click here for more information.

Another year, another NBA 2K game. It’s been a while, I’d been curious about trying the NBA 2K series. Considering the last basketball games I extensively played were NCAA Basketball and NBA Jam, I had a lot of time to make up. When the opportunity to review NBA 2K18 presented itself, I jumped on it; in order to save $80 (Thanks Canada). Without further ado, here goes!

First things first: If this is your first time playing the NBA 2K series, it is highly recommended that you begin with Play Now’s 2KU mode. This has a handful of helpful tutorials to get a grasp of the game’s control and feel. There are 3 levels of difficulty to the tutorials: Basic, Intermediate and Advanced. You can change levels at anytime during your “practice” game; a narrator will often pop up to explain hints to help you get ahead in the game.

And now onto the good stuff. Let’s take a look at the MyCareer mode. Players start up MyCareer by creating a player tailored to their image. While you can’t expect a Fallout-level of character, the creator does have decent options to create an avatar of yourself; or how you wish you’d look. Certain physical attributes, such as the weight of your character, will have an impact on your player’s performance. If you make your player with a smaller frame, he won’t be able to get much physicality. Making him heavier and he won’t be as quick. Etc… For this review, I created a player with an average skillset.

Let’s start off with the first problem. Through MyCareer, players can acquire XP based on how they perform during matches. Experience can be acquired by performing things such as scoring points, guarding, blocking shots and so on. So obviously, the better you perform, the better the reward. Unfortunately, while I can understand that a “rookie” will not perform to the level of legends such as Michael Jordan or current stars like Kyrie Irving, your player is pretty much useless on the court. Which doesn’t make sense because in real life, basketball rookies actually are useful in games; either by scoring or passing. Trying to guard another an opposing player is also almost impossible. He’ll always outrun you and easily escape your guard. The opposing team A.I. is clearly “overpowered” for the lack of a better term. And of course, your A.I. teammates are dumber than a doorknob as they won’t do much besides passing the ball to your character once in a while or run out the shot clock.

The other problem with MyCareer is that bafflingly enough you’re not able to play a full fucking match. Why? When the game starts, you’re required to press A (or you can watch your character and team be beat) to skip ahead in the game. The problem? Once you skip part of the game, you can be down by 15-20 points, with 1 minute left in the quarter. This “skip” occurs twice in a game. Which is pretty idiotic. If I intend to play a career mode and experience the full thing, I’d like to play a full game, so I can actually feel like I have control over the outcome. With this mechanic, it feels cheap and random. Add that to your idiotic A.I. teammates and it makes for a frustrating career mode. And yes, when looking at your team’s calendar, you can have the game decide of the outcome by skipping a full basketball game, but obviously no XP will be earned.

Even if you consider that you performed decently in a game, you’ll barely make a dent in upgrading your character. Unless you’re a virtual Lebron, expect painful grinding to actually get your player to a decent skill level or burn money. Which brings me to my next point: Microtransactions. Yep. That thing that is plaguing the gaming industry. If you have too much money to burn, you can waste it in the game in hopes of improving your character’s overall rating.

And as mentioned, guarding your man can be cumbersome at best; both in MyCareer and regular play modes. The A.I. can move rather quickly, so when you try to cover him you’ll stumble around like a drunk baby; making guarding quite a pain in the ass.

Even on rookie difficulty, the game is unforgiving. At times, the A.I. will take the lead. As it holds the lead, the rate of missed shots seems to increase, but as you close the gap score-wise, the A.I. will get more aggressive and score more buckets. While I understand that it’s part of the challenge, a newbie will find this increasingly difficult. While losing is part of the game, constantly being fucked isn’t fun. At all.

Thankfully, if you just want to play for “fun” or with friends, there’s a handful of Play Now modes which will provide some variety. Along with the aforementioned 2KU tutorials, there’s a Freestyle where you can just run around, practice shooting and layups on half a court. There’s Scrimmage, where you play a game against another team, but in an empty arena. And finally Practice Plays; which is pretty much self-explanatory. You can also jump into a game by choosing teams, past or present, and create interesting match ups.

Or if you’re a fan of street basketball, there’s Blacktop where you can decide to play 1-vs-1, 2-vs-2, 3-vs-3, 4-vs-4 or 5-vs-5 by choosing players from your favorite team. It makes for a fun distraction, but expect to be screwed over as with the game’s main modes. Or if you’re up to the challenge, you can go through the game’s “story mode” by playing MyGM The Next Chapter where players can test out their skills at managing and building a team.

Seems like Visual Concepts didn’t get the memo that not every gamer has been playing this series since Day 1. Despite the game’s various tutorials, it will make it quite daunting for new players to jump in. The game is also poorly balanced; as soon as players get in the groove to close the scoring gap, the A.I., even on Rookie difficulty, will suddenly score 99% of the time.

So how does NBA 2K18 hold visually? Not great. First off, the players and commentators look dead; emotionless. Best example I can give: as I played a game with the classic team of the Phoenix Suns, Steve Nash looked dead in the eye; like a very famous, but very dead, zombie. Without the scars. It definitely looks like Visual Concepts have been re-using assets from last year or they seriously need to upgrade their engine. Shaq is legit pretty frightening during the pre-game commentator spot. Sound wise, it’s actually pretty fun. They managed to nail down the atmosphere of a basketball down; which actually made me wanna get back into watching basketball religiously (I used to watch every freakin’ game until I was 15 years old).

As they say: another year, another NBA 2K game. While this was my first serious attempt at the series, as a new player, I can not recommend NBA 2K18. Let’s overlook the lackluster presentation. The game’s seemingly unbalanced difficulty, even at Rookie level, is sure to provide frustration for newcomers. MyCareer mode is insanely frustrating because your team is as dumb as a doorknob and it’s overall baffling that you can’t really have chances at times to actually win. Unless you’re willing to dedicate hours on end to the game to hone your virtual skills or you’re a yearly player, just skip this game. Take that $60 (or it’s local equivalent) and save it for something that’ll actually be fun.

The Good

  • It’s another NBA 2K game (I guess)
  • A bevvy of game modes available

The Bad

  • Poor balancing difficulty wise
  • No chance whatsoever to welcome newcomers

Family Focus

NBA 2K18 is rated E10+ and PEGI 3 due to the presence of crude humor and mild language. The latter will most likely be coming from you as the game fucks you over and over.

This review is based on a review copy of the game provided by Xbox UK.